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Using Fuel Cells for Backup Power for Telecommunications Facilities

Photo of tower with telecommunications receivers and transmtters.

The telecommunications industry uses an extensive network of cell phone towers and other field facilities to transmit phone calls and other services. All of these facilities require highly reliable electrical power supplies. Fuel cells provide highly effective backup to power these facilities in event of electrical grid power outages.

The telecommunications industry has expanded rapidly as mobile telephones, computers, and high-speed Internet have become more common. The number of cell phone towers and other telecommunications facilities has increased dramatically. This expansion has introduced new industry challenges, particularly service reliability. To prevent outages, most telecommunications providers install some form of backup power to keep their towers, equipment, and networks operational. See an animated example of a telecommunications site layout.

Historically, the electric power grid provided primary power, and batteries and generators provided backup. Many telecommunications providers are now, however, turning to fuel cells for backup power because of important advantages they offer.

To support efficient permitting and safe operation of fuel cell backup power systems at telecommunication sites, the U.S. Department of Energy is working with code organizations, local permitting officials, national laboratories, and industry experts to support the development of model codes and standards, and to provide up-to-date information to permitting officials. Read the DOE Hydrogen Program fact sheet Fuel Cells for Backup Power in Telecommunications Facilities to learn more about the program's activities. You can also see the list of current Stationary and Portable Fuel Cell Systems Codes and Standards Citations.